The New York Times Guide to Negotiation Coverage

"Heads, I win; tails, you lose" is a trope that informs the New York Times' news coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

Whether discussing Palestinian demands or Israeli demands, Palestinian rejection of Israeli positions or Israeli rejection of Palestinian positions, one party is blamed by the newspaper as the obstacle to successful peace talks -- Israel.

Consider a headline (Jan. 11) about Israel's rejection of the Palestinian demand to cease building Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem:

In Blow to Peace Effort, Israel Publishes Plans for New Housing in Settlements

Yet, the newspaper does not cast the Palestinian rejection of a key Israeli demand -- to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the region -- as a "blow" to peace. On the contrary, a headline (Jan. 2) put it this way:

Sticking Point in Peace Talks: Recognition of a Jewish State

The same article appeared the following day in the international edition of the newspaper with a different headline:

New obstacle to peace: Recognizing Jewish state

In other words, it is not the Palestinian refusal to recognize a Jewish state, but Israel's demand to be recognized as a Jewish state that is blamed as a "sticking point" or "obstacle." This indictment is further emphasized in the article:

Critics skeptical of Mr. Netanyahu's commitment to a two-state solution to the long-running conflict say that recognition of a Jewish state is a poison pill that he is raising only to scuttle the talks.

News articles have also weighed in on Israel's desire to maintain forces in the Jordan Valley. Just this week, Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren wrote:

Israeli leaders have tried to exploit recent events to bolster their case for a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley, a sticking point in the United States-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians. ("Region Boiling, Israel Takes Up Castle Strategy," Jan. 19, 2014)

An objective news account might have indicated instead that:

Israeli leaders have pointed to recent events to underscore their case for a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley.

But the reporter preferred the term "exploit" with its negative connotation of selfish maneuvering. And, for the second time this month, an Israeli negotiating position was negatively portrayed by the newspaper as a "sticking point" in peace talks.

What about Palestinian positions, like the insistence on a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendents to Israel's pre-1967 boundaries?

That demand is generally understood to be the crucial element in what some Palestinian officials have described as a "phased plan" for Israel's ultimate destruction -- a vision put forth by the late Yasir Arafat where the Jewish state is replaced by a Palestinian-majority state.

Yet New York Times reporters and headline writers do not call this a "sticking point," as they do Israeli demands. Nor have they labeled Palestinian hate rhetoric as "obstacles to peace," as they do Israeli actions.

When, on occasion, a news article includes criticism of the Palestinian demand for a "right of return" or of institutionalized Palestinian incitement against Israel, it is as an Israeli claim. More often than not, this is followed by a cited denial, disavowal, or counterclaim to discredit Israeli concerns.

In the real world, negotiations involve demands and counter-demands by each party. Success is accompanied by give and take on both sides.

But in the alternate universe of the New York Times, where opinion is injected into news reports, only Palestinian demands and positions are relayed as valid, while those of Israel are labeled "obstacles." The corollary? Success in peace negotiations rests upon Israel acceding to Palestinian demands while giving up its own -- a likely recipe for the demise of the Jewish state.